HR and Workplace Beyond Compliance: How to Build a Culture of Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Industry
HR and Workplace Recognition and Rewards

Beyond Compliance: How to Build a Culture of Sustainability in the Oil and Gas Industry

Author: Ravijojla Novakovic Last updated: April 16, 2024 Reading time: 11 minutes


In the quest for a sustainable future, the oil and gas (O&G) industry stands at a crossroads, and the imperative for environmental sustainability in the oil and gas industry has never been more pressing.

The challenge is twofold: to find realistic paths to efficiency and sustainability that align with economic imperatives and to engage a workforce in environmental values that resonate on a personal level.

Despite the significant strides the oil and gas industry makes towards greener practices in industrial processes, equipment, and technologies, there remains a gap in genuinely engaging the workforce in these initiatives.

How can oil companies ensure that most of their employees are aware of and actively participating in sustainability practices? How can the oil and gas production companies show they communicate their environmental values in a way that makes each employee feel valued and heard?

In this article, we will explore strategies to bridge this gap and effectively engage employees in sustainable practices.

What is Environmental Responsibility? 

Environmental responsibility is a key concept in modern business, especially in the oil and gas industry. It refers to the duty that companies with oil and gas activities and governments have to conduct their operations in a manner that safeguards the environment via sustainable solutions.

This encompasses a commitment to preventing and mitigating environmental harm caused by industrial activities and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

Environmental responsibility is heightened in the O&G sector due to its carbon footprint and emissions and the industry’s substantial impact on natural resources and ecosystems. It involves a proactive approach to conservation, ensuring the sustainable use of resources, equipment, and even renewable energy for consumption, and extends beyond mere regulatory compliance. It is about embedding a culture of stewardship and accountability throughout the organization.

By integrating environmental responsibility into their core values, O&G companies can contribute to the wellbeing of the planet and also enhance their corporate image, attract environmentally conscious investors, keep costs, and ensure long-term viability in a world where investors are increasingly after clean energy and companies focused on sustainability and energy transition to clean and renewable energy too.

What is Environmental Compliance? 

Environmental compliance represents a commitment to environmental laws, regulations, and standards crucial for the oil and gas sector. It’s about ensuring that all operations meet legal requirements and the industry’s ethical standards for environmental sustainability.  

Environmental compliance in the oil and gas industry is a complex, multi-faceted endeavor. According to the SAP Integrated Report 2021, environmental compliance is not just about meeting the minimum legal requirements; it’s about striving for excellence in environmental performance. 

environmental compliance for oil and gas industries

Environmental Responsibility in Action: Compliance and Sustainability in Oil and Gas Industry 

What is HR’s Strategic Role in Driving Corporate Sustainability and Goals in Oil and Gas Companies? 

The HR’s input in corporate decision-making has changed to go beyond the traditional areas of interest of the HR to the broader implications of company objectives. HR increasingly plays a transformative role in steering the O&G sector towards a more sustainable future.

Even when not directly involved in C-level discussions, HR’s insights should inform executive decisions on workforce planning and the impact of strategic goals on employee morale and retention.

HR’s activities are crucial in embedding sustainability into the corporate culture—integrating it into green HR policies, learning, employee growth, safety awareness education, workshops, recognition, rewards, and leveraging engagement, productivity, and safety metrics.

Essentially, HR professionals contribute to the company’s overall goals through traditional roles such as talent acquisition, retention, compensation, benefits, and global workforce management, as well as by emphasizing a culture of safety and sustainability.

Parallelly, HR is expected to stay on top of the digitalization of the overall company and HR processes, ensuring the workforce remains agile and adaptable in a dynamic industry. This includes the increasing demand from HR to be more tech-savvy and to distinguish what to look for from HR tech vendors to best serve company goals.

7 Strategies to Engage Employees in Sustainable Practices

How HR can engage employees in sustainability practices

To effectively engage employees in sustainable practices, HR can thus consider which of the following strategies can benefit their organization and the needs of their workforce:

1. Shift Mindsets About the Role Employees Can Play

Employees should be encouraged to see themselves as active participants in the company’s environmental goals on a global scale. 

This involves educating them about climate change and how their actions can make a real difference and fostering a culture where every contribution to sustainability and global warming is valued and recognized.

SAP’s report emphasizes the importance of creating a shared vision for sustainability. It suggests that companies should communicate their environmental goals in a way that resonates with employees’ values, making the sustainability mission a collective endeavor.

2. Build Sustainability Knowledge That’s Relevant and Actionable

Provide training and resources that help employees understand the importance of environmental responsibility and emissions compliance. Make this knowledge specific to their roles within the company so they can see how their daily tasks contribute to more significant sustainability and emissions goals in the oil and gas industry.

According to SAP, providing employees with real-time data and analytics can empower them to make informed decisions that align with the company’s environmental objectives. 

3. Help Employees Identify Actions They Can Take

Create clear pathways for employees to contribute to sustainable solutions. These could include programs for reducing waste, carbon dioxide footprint, and carbon emissions, conserving renewable energy, cleaning up energy consumption, or improving operational energy efficiency. Recognize and reward these contributions to reinforce their importance.

4. Communicate Sustainability Strategy Transparently  

Communicate the company’s sustainability strategy effectively to all employees. This includes sharing goals, progress, and how the plan aligns with the company’s overall mission. Transparency is critical to building trust and commitment.

sharing sustainability metrics

5. Encourage Employee Involvement and Empowerment

Involve employees in decision-making processes related to sustainability initiatives. This could be through surveys, suggestion boxes, or participation in sustainability committees.

Remember to underestimate the importance of two-way feedback practices and an open culture that fosters team innovation and collaboration.

Empower them to lead projects or develop new ideas and recognize such behavior with features such as dynamic team recognition.

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6. Create a Culture of Sustainability Through Leadership

Leadership should exemplify the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility. Leaders who actively participate in initiatives, communicate goals transparently, and empower employees through ownership and recognition become powerful catalysts for change. This inspires a workforce that’s not just aware but actively engaged in environmental compliance.

7. Ensure Mobile and Instant Accessibility, Seamless Integration of HR Tech  

Ensure the HR tech you use supports mobile technology and access across all functions, everywhere, regardless of work location, so that all employees are well connected. 

Chances are your company utilizes integrated mobile technology to support various day-to-day work activities. This technology brings benefits such as real-time visibility and improves work execution, responsiveness, and productivity for employees in the oil and gas industries

Approximately 41% of the workforce comprises deskless employees in the oil and gas industry. This includes essential workers such as offshore drilling workers who traditionally work away from a desk.

Considering recognition programs work best when they are integrated into the flow of work, and considering that oil and gas companies’ workforce comprises a considerable amount of deskless employees, it is best to implement R&R programs where employees work, and for those deskless employees, that refers to the mobile technology. 

How to Build Recognition and Rewards Programs to Foster Sustainability?

Integrate Recognition with Sustainability 

HR departments can leverage integrated and customized recognition and reward solutions to commend employees who exhibit sustainable practices. Aligning recognition with sustainability goals incentivizes and motivates employees to engage in environmentally responsible behaviors.

Tailor Systems for Industry Needs

Recognition and reward systems are not one-size-fits-all. It is crucial for oil and gas companies to find solutions that seamlessly integrate with core HR systems and offer the personalization needed to reflect their unique company culture.

Find out how to tailor the Recognition and Rewards program that will serve your company needs. Click to get your Recognition and Rewards Program Sampler.

What are the Key Elements for Maximizing R&R Program ROI?   

Inclusive and Multi-Channel Access

Ensure all employees can participate in the recognition programs, with mobile access for those without desks, catering to the different needs of a diverse workforce. Oil and gas companies can particularly benefit from this feature as the workforce is not in unison and comprises various kinds of deskless and office employees.

Clearly Defined Recognition Criteria that Aligns with Cultural Values and Goals

Choose recipients strategically to ensure that the recognition aligns with the company’s sustainability values and the individual’s contributions. Allow peer-to-peer recognition and the ability to include dynamic teams.

Keep awareness alive by keeping industry-specific Appreciation Days calendars and celebrating these with events and special campaigns across departments and teams.

Learn more on how to find the ideal employee recognition software for your organization.

Social Engagement

Leverage companies and internal social walls to create a buzz around sustainability achievements. This encourages a culture of recognition and motivates others to participate.

Managerial Approval

Involve managers in the approval process to add a layer of endorsement and ensure the recognition is meaningful and well-deserved. Track metrics such as approver efficiency to identify gate-keeping managers and be aware of ways this impacts sustainability goals.

Point-Based Monetary Rewards System

Implement a point-based system where employees earn points for engaging in learning and development activities related to sustainability. For example, completing training or courses could be rewarded with points that accumulate towards a tangible or experiential reward.

The gamified approach to recognition creates more engagement towards climate action and, through it, better realization of adherence to sustainability goals.

Maintaining an up-to-date Total Rewards strategy can be demanding. Watch expert Sandrine Bardot in our webinar as she explores how data informs the best Total Rewards plans.

Budget Considerations

Select a recognition technology that can accommodate different budget management styles.

Adaptable and Personalized R&R Programs

A good R&R program will have the reach and flexibility to tweak its programs to serve the needs of various sections of your workforce, either on an individual, team, department, or enterprise level.

This is important because the workforce is a living organism, and employees are unique. There’s an expectation that these programs are personalized to their ways of work and life circumstances.

Additionally, your HR tech toolset should all be connected. A cohesive HR tech suite with R&R programs that boast robust data-tracking integrated into the core HR system will afford HR managers enhanced control in cultivating a culture of sustainability and recognition.

AI-powered Recognition and Strategic Workforce Planning

The new standard of recognition programs lies in AI-powered “co-pilots” that help craft unique messages and suggest and personalize rewards for sustainable behaviors.

What’s more, AI’s potential goes beyond individual recognition. AI can predict future workforce needs by analyzing data from R&R software, including employee engagement in sustainability initiatives. This allows HR and managers to identify patterns influencing talent management and retention proactively.

For example, AI can identify employees deeply engaged in sustainability efforts and who are likely to remain with the company due to value alignment. This knowledge enables HR to craft targeted training programs and career paths, enhancing efficiency and preparing a resilient and future-ready workforce.


The success of the oil and gas companies increasingly depends on their commitment to environmental responsibility. While compliance is essential, building a culture of sustainability requires a more proactive approach. 

This article has explored strategies for fostering employee engagement in sustainability initiatives, empowering HR to play a transformative role.

The key takeaway is this: a truly sustainable oil and gas company cultivates a workforce that actively embraces environmental stewardship. This shift requires a commitment from leadership, a focus on employee empowerment, and the strategic use of technology.

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